An Extraordinary Cat

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Machli, the world's most famous tigress, is dying. A tribute

There is an old jungle saying in these parts. Of a tigress who stalks. Of a tigress who rules Ranthambore. Of a tigress whose majesty is assured as much by the gaze of millions she arrests with the distinctive ‘fish’ mask outlining her eyes, as the YouTube clips of her legendary exploits: her jaws choking a 14-foot crocodile lifeless here, her snarl warding off a predatory male in defence of her cubs there. The survival of the tigress, goes the old jungle saying, is the survival of the tiger.

That’s perhaps why the Machli we know, a 14-year-old marked officially as T-16 at Ranthambore National Park, is actually the daughter of the original tigress by that name. But that little detail doesn’t matter. The legend of Machli as the world’s most photographed cat with stripes, as she’s regarded, has survived a generation, and there are many who wish it would last another. After all, the tiger’s survival is a cause dear to us all.

-- Text by Ninad D. Sheth